Start to Finish: 1 hour, 45 minutes Servings: two 14-inch pizzas Difficulty Level: Beginner
Pizza is sometimes relegated to the category of junk food or kiddie fare, especially when it comes frozen from a box or arrives at your doorstep via delivery driver. A homemade pizza, though, can please even the most discriminating of gourmets. A crust with just the right combination of chewiness and crisp, a simple marinara sauce and high-quality mozzarella is surprisingly easy to craft. The following recipe uses only cheese as a topping, but you can add any assortment of veggies, meats, herbs and even fruits to customize a scratch-made pizza.
Dough 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose or bread flour 1 teaspoon honey 1 envelope instant, dry yeast 1 1/4 cups water 1 tablespoon kosher salt 2 tablespoons olive oil * cooking spray
Sauce 1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes 1 clove garlic 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning salt and pepper to taste
Toppings 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese or sliced whole-milk, fresh mozzarella 8-10 fresh, whole basil leaves * 1 teaspoon coarsely ground cornmeal
Mix the Dough
Warm 1/4 cup of water to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the large bowl of a stand mixer, place the instant yeast with the honey and warmed 1/4 cup of water. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture appears frothy or bubbly, which indicates the yeast it activated.
Place the bowl on the stand of the mixer with the dough attachment in place.
Add about 1 cup of flour to the bubbling yeast and turn the machine to low. Once the flour is incorporated, slowly add the oil and salt.
Mix in another cup of flour along with half of the remaining cup of water. Allow to stir for a minute or two and add flour, about 1/2 cup at a time until a ball of smooth dough starts to form.
If you don't own a stand mixer, simply mix the dough using an old-fashioned wooden spoon and knead into a smooth ball with your hands.
Knead the Dough and Prepare the Sauce
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand for one to two minutes. If the dough is too dry, sprinkle with an extra teaspoon or two of water. If it's too sticky, add small amounts of flour until it smoothes out.
Form into a ball and place into a separate bowl spritzed with cooking spray. Cover with a damp, clean hand towel and set in a warm, dark area to rise for approximately one hour.
Once the dough has risen, divide the dough into two balls. Roll each one out on a lightly floured surface to make two 14-inch, thin discs.
While the dough rises, make the sauce by blending the can of tomatoes, garlic and dried herbs in a blender or food processor. No need to precook this fresh sauce.
Assemble the Pie
Preheat the oven to 450 or 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the dough onto a pizza stone sprinkled lightly with the cornmeal. A plain cookie or unrimmed baking sheet brushed with olive oil work in lieu of a pizza stone.
Use a spoon to spread a light layer of sauce over each crust, leaving about a 1/4-inch border. Top each with 8 ounces of the shredded or sliced mozzarella. Place the stone in the oven and bake for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is browned on the edges. Remove immediately and top haphazardly with a few fresh basil leaves. Serve at once.
The type of flour you use affects the crust: use all-purpose flour to yield a chewier crust or bread flour for a crispier one.
Add any toppings on top of the cheese, before baking. Avoid piling the toppings on too high or crowding them. This will weigh down the crust and make it soggy. Precook certain toppings, such as ground beef or sausage, before adding them to the pizza.